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Drink Mon Dec 08 2008
Yes, it's the season for giving yet again. And what better gift than champagne, that most sparkly and celebratory of all beverages? Yes, you could break out the Andre and a sheepish yet hopeful smile, but it's Christmas! Lexus and Best Buy and every other merchant in America would have you believe we can wish and spend this recession into the past -- so why not go for the good stuff and pick up some Laurent-Perrier this year? Or if you're really feeling flush, the 2008 Laurent-Perrier holiday gift set, featuring a magnum (i.e. the one that's "juuuuuust right") of Grand Siecle and six hand-blown Baccarat crystal champagne flutes based on a design commissioned by the champagnerie in 1965 reflecting an inversion of the bottle's shape. Thanks to the Laurent-Perrier press unveiling at the Four Seasons this past week, fellow GB-staffer Jill Jaracz and I can vouch for the fact that it is lavishly lovely -- and the champagne is good as well. More details (and the price!) after the fold.
Laurent-Perrier is the largest privately-owned champagne house around these days, with corporate offices, cellars and vineyards occupying a full estate in Tours-sur-Marne, outside of Paris. Grand Siecle is one of the highest end champagnes produced by L-P -- second only to Alexandra Rose, a champagne created for the wedding of one chairman Bernard de Nonancourt's daughters. (Not a bad wedding gift. I bet she had a pony when she was little, too. Jealous.) Communications and PR Director Nicole Snozzi (whose remarkable background includes working with Texans in the oil business in Central America, and a South African casino magnate in Paris prior to settling in at L-P for the past 16 years) flew into Chicago for her first trip to our "magical" city and the gift set unveiling. Nicole helpfully guided the assembled group through a tasting as well, which she confided to me is the favorite part of her job.
And I can't blame her. Grand Siecle is a darn good champagne. I'm not much of a connoisseur when it comes to bubbly (I also think Cook's is a pretty decent champagne, though I kind of hate Korbel -- is that weird?), so I"ll suffice to say that I could -- and did -- drink a lot of this stuff. It tastes more like a wine than other champagnes I've tried, the pinot noir and chardonnay grapes lending all sorts of honey, brioche and sweet jam flavors to the carbonation. Not a vintage wine, Grand Siecle is rather made only occasionally, when the Chef de Caves at L-P decides the vineyards have produced particularly good grapes, which then make up 60% of Grand Siecle, with one to three other vintages supplying the rest. All this work and complexity pays off, however. As Snozzi noted, these are wines created to reflect elegance, finesse, but above all, enjoyment: "You drink a glass and you want a second. This is what we want. Pleasure wines."
The Four Seasons, bless their hearts, did their shiny, glowing best to show off the Laurent-Perrier event with this same combination of luxury and pleasure, with a beautiful room of candles, glowing crystal and callow lilies. The champagne itself was supplemented by an array of small bites composed of classic accompaniments -- oysters with champagne gellee, lobster puffs with micro greens, tiny individual fingerling potatoes with creme fraiche and caviar, bison tartare with tomato and capers. An impressive spread to go with an impressive champagne, and a very impressive gift set.
Only 10 sets are available in the US -- in New York and San Francisco as well as Chicago. Other sets are being shipped to single locations in Italy and Great Britain, two locations in France, a handful in Russia -- only 100 sets in total are available. This year's set is, as Chicago Market Manager Aurelie Baetche told us, a little fancier than years past -- not just in its contents, but in the overall presentation. Grand Siecle itself has had a bit of a facelift this year, with a new, sleeker label.
If all of this has convinced you to pick up an L-P gift set this year, head to Fox & Obel, the single distributor in the city. Daniele Dulong from Fox & Obel's wine department told Jill they're selling it for about $3600. If that breaks your bank, Laurent-Perrier is available in slightly thriftier quantities at Sam's. But for a real holiday gift steal, pick up some Cook's and Blood Orange Jumex from your local bodega and you've got a mimosa kit for under $20. Cheers!